Housed in the former bus depot at 500 W. Main St., the Museum of Durham History is, like history, a work in progress. In addition to hosting events, the museum has a dynamic website with videos of Durham residents telling personal narratives; for example, Kelly Bryant’s memories of Black Wall Street are wonderful to hear in his voice.
The website also contains a Guide to Durham Street and School Names, including a section on the city’s 28 “Ghost Streets”thoroughfares, alleys and stubs that have been demolished, paved over or built upon.
Here are a few selections:
The construction of the Durham Freeway (Highway 147) made driving to Raleigh easier, but it destroyed the historically African-American Hayti neighborhood. Among the many streets that were eliminated for the highway: Branch Place ran from East Pettigrew Street, near Hendrick Chevrolet, southwest into a section of Hayti called “Mexico,” which, according to the museum website, was a “rough and dangerous place.” Mexico is now the Heritage Square Shopping Center, which was also built over a two-block street, Chess Place. Henry Street/Alley was also in that area.
Cozart Street, named after an African-American landowner, vanished in the wake of the freeway. It extended from Fayetteville and Pettigrew streets southwest to Morehead, where an exit ramp is now. A dead end, Coleman Alley ran north-south and is now buried between exits 11 and 12A of the freeway, as is Husband Alley.
Farther west, a shortcut from the Durham Transportation Center and the nearby American Tobacco Campus parking garage to the back of the Beyu Caffe and Toast is up several weedy, wooden and sometimes slippery steps and over the railroad tracks. Well, if a railroad official ever calls you out for trespassing on those steps and tracks, tell him you’re using Carr Street, which back in the tobacco factory days was the route for workers headed north to downtown.
If those pleas fail and you wind up in the Durham County Jail, console yourself with the thought that at least you’re not Cora Street, which is beneath the lockup.
For those of you sitting in Sections 105–119 at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, you’re sitting on history: Matthews Street ran under your feet, parallel to what is now Blackwell, nearly to Lakewood, just shy of the BP gas station that seems to specialize in 40-ouncers.
Matthews intersected with Tatum Place, just one block long, which ran east-to-west approximately where the left-field warning track is now.